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UoN reforms open new Magoha, Kiama battlefront


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UoN reforms open new Magoha, Kiama battlefront


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Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha (left) and the University of Nairobi (UoN) vice-chancellor Stephen Kiama. NMG PHOTOS

Summary

  • The two professors last week issued conflicting statements on managerial changes at the institution that left its top organs in confusion.
  • This comes barely a year after a legal battle over the VC’s appointment almost paralysed operations at the institution.
  • In their latest tiff, Prof Magoha stopped administrative reforms that Prof Kiama had initiated with the support of the council.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and the University of Nairobi (UoN) vice-chancellor, Stephen Kiama, are yet again caught up in an administrative impasse that could affect the operations of Kenya’s foremost institution of higher learning.

The two professors last week issued conflicting statements on managerial changes at the institution that left its top organs in confusion.

This comes barely a year after a legal battle over the VC’s appointment almost paralysed operations at the institution.

In their latest tiff, Prof Magoha stopped administrative reforms that Prof Kiama had initiated with the support of the council.

The management had announced a restructuring process to cut costs and increase efficiency after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) identified it as one of the public bodies earmarked for reforms due to their poor financial standing.

Sources at the Treasury said reforms are also expected at Kenyatta University, Moi University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

The institutions face serious financial challenges and are “operating below cost recovery”.

No guidelines have, however, been issued on how they should go about it.

The UoN council, chaired by Prof Julia Ojiambo, on July 9 announced a raft of changes, including the scrapping of the five positions of deputy vice-chancellors (DVCs).

The DVCs are in charge of finance and planning, human resource, student affairs, academic affairs and research and innovation. In the proposed structure announced by Prof Ojiambo, Prof Kiama and council member Marie Rarieya, the DVCs will be replaced by two associate vice-chancellors.

In other radical changes, all the colleges were disbanded and their operations reorganised within 11 faculties, down from 35, led by executive deans and associate deans in place of principals and deputy principals.

Prof Ojiambo said the changes were necessitated by the efforts to eliminate duplication of functions and improve efficiency.

“We had to do this to improve efficiency. The new structure will lead to quick decision-making and greater financial discipline. The changes are meant to enhance accountability and utilise excess capacity to generate more resources,” she said.

Prof Kiama said no staff would lose his or her job in the reorganisation, adding that those affected would be integrated into the new structure.

The University Act (2012) has elaborate guidelines on the appointment of DVCs, but has no provision for associate VCs.

“Proposed reviews that necessitate abolishing or establishing positions in the governance and administrative structures of a public university or constituent college, especially those not envisaged in the Universities Act, 2012, must comply with the necessary legal framework governing such changes and be forwarded to the ministry through the Commission for University Education,” Prof Magoha stated.

He said that such changes needed amendments to the charters or legal notices of constituent colleges, forwarded to the ministry through CUE before gazettement in line with the Universities Act 2012.

In his public spat with the UoN council last year, Prof Magoha had complained that the body had side-stepped him – and by extension, President Uhuru Kenyatta – in the appointment of Prof Kiama as VC by not consulting them.

However, the Universities Act has no provision for such and the Cabinet Secretary was forced to eat humble pie and reverse his orders revoking Prof Kiama’s appointment after a court battle.

This time around, Prof Kiama not only has to contend with the disappointment of the CS nullifying his appointments but also the students vowing to demonstrate on the streets every Wednesday until he reverses a decision to increase tuition fees

Fees for a Master’s degree course in liberal arts was raised from Sh275,000 to Sh600,000. Tuition fees for degree courses like commerce, economics and law under the self-sponsored programme.



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